May 3, 2008 / 11:40 AM / 10 years ago

Evacuations continue as New Brunswick river floods

FREDERICTON, New Brunswick (Reuters) - A flooded Saint John River played havoc with the Canadian province of New Brunswick again on Friday, forcing hundreds from their homes and sending a house floating down the waterway.

<p>Floodwater surrounds a neighbourhood in the north end Fredericton, New Brunswick May 1, 2008. Melting snow and heavy rain resulted in the St. John River flooding low lying communities throughout the province. REUTERS/Paul Darrow</p>

Schools and roads were closed and water covered the streets in the provincial capital of Fredericton for a second day as the crest of the flood slowly made its way down the river to the Atlantic Coast.

CBC television broadcast video taken by a local resident that showed a house being carried by the flood waters.

“There is a lot of flooded area ... a lot of homes under water,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said after a helicopter tour of the area. “People seem to be handling it well.”

More than 600 residents have been evacuated, most in Fredericton and in towns in northern New Brunswick, and evacuations are continuing, said Valerie Kilfoil of the provincial emergency measures organization.

No deaths have been reported because of the flooding in western New Brunswick or northern Maine, where the Saint John River also forced evacuations this week and closed two border crossings.

Water levels were stabilizing in northern New Brunswick early on Friday afternoon, and were expected to decline around Fredericton on Saturday.

A Reuters photographer watched as residents used canoes to reach their flooded houses and businesses. The swift current also made it difficult for military engineers, who were using their boats to help with evacuations.

Downstream water levels have not yet hit their expected peak levels, Kilfoil said, which means New Brunswick communities such as Maugerville and Saint John are still bracing for floods.

In Saint John, the province’s biggest city, the water level is expected to rise to 4.7 meters (15 feet) on Friday and 4.9 meters (16 feet) on Saturday. Flooding occurs at 4.2 meters (14 feet).

The Canadian Red Cross has opened two reception centers for evacuees.

It appeared earlier this week that the river was on the verge of surpassing flood levels last hit in 1973, but Kilfoil said models now predict those records won’t be broken.

Canadian National Railway Co has interrupted train service between Moncton, New Brunswick, and Saint-Andre, Quebec, and will have to inspect the tracks before traffic can resume on the route that links Halifax and Montreal.

While many people have left their homes, some farmers have decided to stay put if they can.

“I grew up on a farm and I would have a hard time leaving cattle and horses behind, so I know what they feel like,” Oromocto Mayor Fay Tidd told CBC television.

Flood waters were also receding in Fort Kent, Maine, where about 600 people were forced from their homes on Wednesday, leaving residents to assess the extensive damage -- including a key bridge that links the town with Canada.

“There are a lot of businesses on both sides of the border, a lot of relatives on both sides of the border,” Gov. John Baldacci told Maine Public Radio after touring the community.

Reporting by Lynne Olver, Allan Dowd, Paul Darrow; Editing by Rob Wilson

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